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Looking Back on a Remarkable Year of Remembrance

17 December 2015

January 2015

CWGC wins Trustees' Award at The Longman History Today Awards 2015

In January, CWGC won the Trustees' Award at the annual Longman-History Today Awards, located at the beautiful Old Hall in Lincoln's Inn, London. For more information, please take a look at History Today.

February 2015

HRH the Duke of Cambridge remembers fallen in Japan

His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge visited CWGC's Yokohama War Cemetery on February 27 to pay his respects to the Commonwealth war dead commemorated in Japan.

The cemetery holds the graves of more than 1,500 Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in the Second World War and 171 who died during the Allied occupation of Japan up to 1952.

The Duke placed a floral tribute at the cemetery's Stone of Remembrance, which carried the hand-written message: 'May we never forget all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. William.'

March 2015

Neuve Chapelle

A ceremony was held at CWGC's Neuve Chapelle Memorial in France on March 13 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.  Soldiers of the Indian Army fought alongside the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.  They came from what today would be India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, parts of Myanmar (Burma) and Nepal.

A parallel CWGC exhibition was also held at an event hosted by the Indian Army at the Manekshaw Convention Centre, New Delhi and another exhibition at Salle Polyvalente, highlighting the unique contribution made by Indian forces.

April 2015

Princes pay tribute to Gallipoli fallen

HRH Prince of Wales and HRH Prince Henry of Wales led tributes to the fallen on April 24 at the CWGCs Helles Memorial and April 25 at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli in Turkey. The commemorations mark the Centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in which more than 36,000 Commonwealth servicemen died.

The Gallipoli campaign was an attempt by the Allies to find an alternative to the stalemate of the Western Front, force Germany's ally, the Ottoman Empire, out of the war and open up a route to provide Russia with much needed supplies.

The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF), comprising troops from Britain, Ireland, India, France, the fledgling Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and later Canada (Newfoundland),  landed on the Gallipoli peninsula at dawn on 25 April. They were met with fierce resistance by the Ottoman soldiers.

The campaign lasted eight months before the Allies decided to abandon their plans and evacuate their forces. The last Allied troops left in January 1916 - leaving behind 36,000 of their fallen comrades who are now buried and commemorated by the CWGC at 31 sites on the peninsula.

Reburial at Prowse Point Cemetery

100 years after they were killed in action in October 1914, six unknown British servicemen of the First World War were re-interred at ‪Prowse Point Military Cemetery near Ieper, Belgium.

The service took place on April 16. The six individuals - two from the Lancashire Fusiliers, two from the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, and two unidentified British soldiers - were reburied with full military honours by servicemen from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the 1st Battalion The Duke Of Lancaster's Regiment.

May 2015

Dunkirk 75th anniversary

HRH Prince Michael of Kent joined veterans and pilgrims at CWGC's Dunkirk Memorial on May 22 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk.
His Royal Highness is Honorary Admiral for The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, who returned to Dunkirk to commemorate the significant role they played, alongside the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in 1940 - codenamed Operation Dynamo.

Allied forces fighting to defend France against German forces during the early stages of the Second World War were forced back to the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, where they were then evacuated across the Channel to England.

The CWGC Dunkirk Memorial commemorates more than 4,500 members of the BEF who died between September 1939 and June 1940 and have no known grave.

VE Day

The CWGC held a special exhibition at St James's Park, London to mark 70 years of the ending of the Second World War in Europe.

100th anniversary of the Lusitania sinking

On 1 May 1915, the Cunard liner Lusitania left New York for Liverpool via Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland.

Lusitania arrived off the coast of Ireland on 7 May and was spotted by the crew of U20, a German submarine lurking off the Irish coast near the Old Head of Kinsale.

The U20 fired a single torpedo at Lusitania hitting her starboard bow, just beneath the wheelhouse, causing a small explosion. Moments later a second much larger explosion ripped open her bow. Lusitania began to sink, listing severely, which greatly hampered the attempts of her passengers and crew to escape.

In all, only six out of 48 lifeboats were launched successfully. Lusitania sank in just 18 minutes.

Of nearly 2,000 passengers and crew aboard, close to 1,200 were lost despite valiant rescue attempts by local lifeboatmen and fishermen. Among those who died were over 100 US citizens, and the incident caused outcry in the press on both sides of the Atlantic.

June 2015

Armed Forces Day

Guildford Borough Council hosted the Armed Forces Day national event, at which CWGC erected an exhibition stand. There were between 60,000 and 100,000 visitors in the town on the day - the event was a great way for CWGC to meet its supporters and make new ones.

Chalke Valley History Festival

CWGC took part in the Chalke Valley History Festival, Wiltshire, for the first time and set up an exhibition for visitors to find out more about the Commission and how they can support what we do.

Our Education Manager, Glenn Hearnden, gave a well-received talk about the CWGC - sharing the stage with many notable speakers such as Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame and David Starkey.

75th anniversary of the sinking of HMT Lancastria

In June 1940, Lancastria was sunk by German aircraft off the French port of St. Nazaire while taking part in Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British nationals and troops from France, two weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation. It is not known how many people were on board but it is estimated that as many as 4,000 died.

The details of the incident were kept secret at the time, for fear of harming morale. It was Britain's worst maritime disaster. The bodies of many of those who died were washed ashore along the western coast of France, and were buried in communal cemeteries and churchyards.

Those whose bodies were never recovered are commemorated by name on memorials for those with no known grave.

July 2015

30,000th sounding of Last Post at Menin Gate Memorial

HRH Duke of Kent led the tribute of the 30,000th sounding of the Last Post at Menin Gate Memorial, which has more than 54,000 names engraved upon it.

The sounding of the Last Post has taken place every night at the Menin Gate since 1928 in memory of those who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world still gather under the gate each night to listen to the Last Post and to remember.

Thiepval Memorial to be restored

The CWGC announced plans for a major restoration programme for the Thiepval Memorial - the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme and the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world - ahead of the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme in July 2016.

Work on the Thiepval Memorial started in July 2015 and is planned to finish in early spring 2016. It will address a number of issues with the memorial - particularly drainage and water ingress. During this period both the site and the cemetery will remain open to the public.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has provided £1.6 million towards the restoration and enhancement of the memorial as part of the First World War commemorations.

Memorial to Indian war dead restored

The Keren Cremation Memorial, within Keren War Cemetery, commemorates Sikh and Hindu soldiers who died on the Keren battlefield and whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith. Three East African soldiers are also commemorated on the memorial.

The work to restore the memorial was required after the existing structure was hit by lightning - which displaced blocks and damaged many of the memorial's stone surfaces. New stone was ordered from Italy and shipped to Eritrea, but erecting the memorial proved challenging, as access to the area is extremely difficult. With support from the British Embassy, the CWGC's Africa team was able to gain access and complete the restoration.

August 2015

CWGC launches digitised records of Second World War

The CWGC launched its digitised records in August covering British, Irish and Commonwealth casualties from the Second World War.

The archives also show records for most other nationals commemorated at its sites, including German soldiers. The release of the Second World War records follows the success of the First World War digital archives in August 2014.

The documents give a unique insight into the process of commemoration undertaken by the armed forces and the CWGC during and after the war, and include details of personal headstone inscriptions, date of death, rank, regiment and even some documents which show the journey of the deceased to their final resting place. The records are freely available to the public through the CWGC.

September 2015

CWGC launches Remembrance Trail for Battle of Loos Centenary

The CWGC Loos Remembrance Trail takes the visitor on a journey of discovery across the battlefields of Loos, visiting some of the CWGC cemeteries where many of those killed in the battle lie buried. It helps the visitor learn more about the battle and the experience of those who fought it.

The Battle of Loos (September - October 1915) was the British Army's largest effort of the war so far, with 75,000 men involved on the first day alone.  It saw the first British use of poison gas and also the first major deployment of inexperienced wartime volunteers in an offensive on the Western Front. It became known at the time as the Big Push.

October 2015

CWGC War Grave App turns one

A year ago this month, the CWGCs new War Graves App - which helps you locate a cemetery or memorial near you - celebrates its first birthday, with more than 10,000 downloads to date. Click here to download this free app for Android, Windows and iOS.

November 2015

CWGC unveil new memorial at Brookwood Military Cemetery

The CWGC unveiled its Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial at Brookwood Military Cemetery at the start of November, to commemorate more than 260 First World War servicemen who died in the United Kingdom and Ireland, or at sea, but who have no known grave.

Many of the names are of newly recognised war casualties, whose details were omitted from official records produced during, and shortly after, the First World War.

These missing names predominately relate to soldiers and officers who died of their injuries away from the battlefield. Many died while still in service, but casualties who were discharged as unfit because of their injuries and subsequently died may also be eligible for commemoration.

Prime Minister Visits CWGC site

David Cameron, MP for Witney, visited one of CWGC's sites in his constituency.

The Prime Minister met the CWGC team at Black Bourton, St Mary's Church, Oxford and was taken on a tour of the headstones and told the stories behind the young men who lost their lives, mainly due to training accidents or dying from wounds once back in the UK.  

December 2015

HMS Natal Disaster

December 30, 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of the HMS Natal tragedy - when the ship exploded and capsized, causing the deaths of more than 420 people. Among the casualties were seven wives of officers and three children who were visiting the ship. The ship sank in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland.

The cause of the internal explosion was attributed to faulty or deteriorating ammunition.

Two strange asides to note are that Natal is actually the Portuguese word for Christmas and one of the survivors was the ship's cat, saved by Leading Stoker Thomas Robinson.

The majority of the ship's crew who died that night are commemorated on the CWGC's three naval memorials at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham but graves will be found at Cromarty Cemetery and Rosskeen Parish Churchyard in Ross and Cromarty, Scotland.